Apple Files Patent for Technology That Can Track Every Move You Make

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An apple a day keeps the doctor away – and if Apple's latest invention gets rolled out, iPhones will track that kind of behavior.

Fine, it won't actually be able to track apple consumption. But it will be able to track your actions, nearly all of them: In a patent published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Thursday, Apple outlined a new method for its iPhone and future mobile devices to learn a user's behavioral patterns – gestures, typical locations, motion sensor data, grammar and vocabulary, and possibly even a user's gait using an accelerometer – and trigger an alert if the patterns change.

The patent lists the possible data points:

The sensors may determine movement, rotation, ambient temperature, ambient light, magnetic fields, acceleration, and proximity. In addition to sensor data, the user device may be able to determine location, interactions with external devices, and user interactions with the user device. In short, a mobile device is a very personal item that typically accompanies their user more closely than other technology.

According to Apple, the invention would be used as a safety measure to prevent device and data theft and, in the process, lower the risk of people attempting to retrieve their phones. If noticeable behavioral differences occur, for example, a server could remotely lock the device until the user enters a password or send a notification to a third-party device. 

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The technology would cut down on the pesky punching in of a PIN code to unlock phones, but does raise the issue of data privacy. Even though users would be able to, as with former devices, toggle certain features like location tracking, Apple's servers would still be home to their data. 

Of course, patents do not mean definite implementation, but simply point to where Apple is headed. If the company is looking into behavior-based technology, using the data as a safety feature seems like a logical step following the success of the iCloud-based activation lock in the iOS 7, which Techcrunch reported has decreased the rates of theft on iOS devices in cities like New York, London, and San Francisco. So far, the company has not included this behavioral-learning feature on its iOS 8 beta builds. 

Here's a shot from the patent:

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.